First-Time Winner Spotlight: VIctor Estrella Burgos
He spoke with ATPWorldTour.com after the victory.
Victor Estrella Burgos, 34, proved that persistence pays on Sunday at the Ecuador Open Quito, becoming the oldest first-time ATP World Tour titlist in Open Era history with his 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-6(5) win over top seed Feliciano Lopez.
He also reached his first ATP World Tour doubles final in Quito, falling with partner Joao Souza to the German team of Alexander Satschko and Gero Kretschmer.
Seeded eighth, Estrella Burgos upset fourth seed Martin Klizan and sixth-seeded Thomaz Bellucci in addition to Lopez en route to his maiden title. The World No. 73 is the second player ranked outside the Top 50 to win a title this year following World No. 63 Jiri Vesely, who won in Auckland last month.
He spoke with ATPWorldTour.com after the victory.
How does it feel to be holding your first ATP World Tour singles trophy?
I’m really happy to be able to win my first ATP title at age 34. I dreamed about not retiring without winning an ATP title. It is very important to every player; for me it is very meaningful, without a doubt. Quito will stay in my memory forever. I hope that this is not the first and last, and that from today on I continue to play good tennis to be able to stay in the Top 100.
At the age of 34, what does it mean to you to become the oldest first-time titlist in the Open Era?
It means a lot to me to be in the book of tennis records. Same as last year when I was the oldest player to debut at the US Open, and now I am the oldest first-time titlist. I’m making history for my country, for me and for tennis worldwide. I think that age is just a number for me.
How much confidence did your run to the semi-finals last year in Bogota give you?
It gave me quite the confidence to reach the semis in Bogota, and to be so close to winning the match. After Bogota, having reached a third round in the US Open and a third round in Washington, starting to win ATP matches gave me a lot of confidence and proved that I have the level. I think that I have the level to be in the Top 50.
Your career has taken a very unique path. What has been the secret to your success and how high can you climb?
I believe that the secret has been perseverance. When I came back to play in late 2006, already 26 years old, I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. It was going to be a long road, and I know that practicing hard, giving it my all, would make it possible. And as we say in the Dominican Republic and within my team, “el cielo es mi techo” (the sky is my limit). I started the 2015 season trying to reach the Top 50, and I think that in February I’m already in the Top 50. I have no limits! My limit is up to wherever God wants.
Was there ever a point that you considered hanging up your racquet for good? How did you stay motivated during those times?
I had a lot of moments, but there is one specifically. In Davis Cup in 2012, I got injured on my elbow and it lasted for seven or eight months. Then I used to think I would not play again. I was on my best moment; I was ranked my highest at 160, and then I got injured. I thought about stopping many times, but there was one person who insisted, who supported me on every moment.
I used to spend hours in his office, and he would tell me how to do things, how to come back to play, and he took charge of my career. The person I’m talking about is Jose Luis Bonilla. Then in January of 2013, I went to the United States to recover, and I was able to play again in April. From 2013 up until now, I started to win matches, gain confidence, and thanks to God that injury never bothered me again, and here I am.
As the first player from your country to reach the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, discuss what the reaction to your success has been back at home. Is tennis growing in popularity in the Dominican Republic?
Being the first to crack the Top 100, the first to win a Challenger, the first to win an ATP tournament—that means so much for the tennis of the Dominican Republic and for all my country. Today everybody was watching the game at the bars and clubs. Tennis has grown a lot and become very popular. Before, the baseball players were the ones who go out on the streets and get recognised. Now I go anywhere and there are people saying, ‘You are the one who plays tennis! Where did you learn?’ Tennis has grow so much in the Dominican Republic that, for the first time, they gave the Athlete of the Year award to a tennis player. This tells you how much has tennis grown in my country.
You are edging closer to cracking the Top 50 for the first time. Did you have a ranking goal you set for yourself coming into the season?
This season’s goal was to send my self to the Top 50. Thank God we are close. So now I have to start training and prepare for the next tournaments to move forward and get better in the rankings.
We hear you are a big music fan and enjoy singing. What is your favourite type of music and what influence does it have on you when you're on the court?
There is no doubt I like music a lot. I think as a Dominican, I am a faithful merengue and bachata lover. Merengue is a very happy rhythm and so is bachata, so I think those two types of music make me more positive and cheerful in the field, and I always have a high energy. I am Dominican and we are like that: no matter the situation we are living, we are always happy and willing to dance a merengue or a bachata.
You have good results on both hard and clay courts. Do you have a favourite surface and what do you feel are the strengths of your game?
My best shot is my forehand, and the surfaces I like the most are the faster ones. But I don’t like hard fast surfaces; I like fast clay. When I’m playing on clay courts that are a bit faster than regular, I love to play there. I’ve had good results in this surface, but when clay is faster, for me it is much better.
Who were the players you looked up to and admired growing up?
Back in the old days, I used to admire Andre Agassi, Sampras, McEnroe, but all my life I’ve admired and still admire Roger Federer. For me, he’s the best of the best, and I hope to play against him one day.